Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013 - 3 comments

A Year of Overdue Firsts

I’ve done a lot of things in my life that are on other people’s bucket lists.  I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China (multiple times), visited the Pyramids, and seen Mt. Ararat up close.  (Though I am not entirely convinced that the “petrified wood” we saw in Noah’s Ark National Park was the real deal....)  

I’ve done some of the things on my own list of  “things to accomplish before I die,” too, like starting my own greeting card company, becoming fluent in another language and, as of last year, eating Swiss chocolate IN Switzerland.  (Those truffles were totally worth the layover...)

Last month, after having been a longtime fan of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy on screen, I finally got around to actually reading Pride and Prejudice.  (If Kathleen Kelly in “You’ve Got Mail” has read it “over two hundred times” then I have a lot of catching up to do!)  Around the same time, I had another first:  my first ever batch of homemade applesauce.  (So delicious!)  And I got to thinking.  There are a lot of “normal” things that “normal” people have usually done, made or experienced that I have yet to do.  

So I declared 2013 my “Year of Doing Normal Things I’ve Never Done.”

I’d never learned how to drive a stick shift, for example.  It all sounded so complicated - too much to think about all at once - and I’d never really had the desire, despite living in a country where nearly every car is a manual.  But when I was going to be staying with my friends’ kids while they were in India, they wanted me to be able to drive their car. (Two kids and their overloaded school backpacks on my scooter wouldn’t be fun in the rain.)  And so I had my first lesson in driving a stick.

Yes, lesson.  As in one.  We couldn’t seem to co-ordinate our schedules as the time of their departure drew near, but since didn’t run over any goats or sheep during that 45 minutes or stall TOO many times, they figured I could handle running the kids to and from school, and off they went.

Needless to say, it’s one thing to do something new when you have someone experienced sitting beside you, and another thing entirely to have a pile of kids aged ten and under staring blankly back at you when you ask, “What am I doing wrong?!?!”  The car and I were not friends for the first while.  It took a huge amount of emotional energy just to get behind the wheel, and once I got so frustrated I actually ended up in tears.  

But I was determined not to be defeated by 5 gears and an extra pedal, and between sweet prayers from the backseat every time we got in the car and another hour of practice with a very encouraging friend, by the end of the two weeks I felt a hundred times more confident behind the wheel.  And while I’m still a million miles from joining the “I’ll-never-go-back-to-an-automatic” club, I do feel like I’ve crossed some kind of threshold that makes me feel like, well, a normal adult.

Several of the things on my list involve basic foods I’ve never made.  Moving to Turkey has turned me into more or less a total “from scratch” cook.  (I’m ashamed to admit I actually used to import Bisquick for pancakes when I first lived in Istanbul!)  I’m definitely adventurous in the kitchen, churning out exotic creations like saffron apricot chicken and cilantro avocado quinoa salad, but there are some “classics” I’ve never attempted at home.

Baking bread, for example.  Except maybe in Grade 8 Home Ec class, I can’t recall ever making it.  That’s on the list for this year.  And roast beef.  My grandma used to make it for my birthday dinners when I was younger, but I can’t say I’ve ever done it myself.  (I’ll be saving that one for sometime when I’m in Canada, though, cuz beef is way too expensive here.)

Two things that aren’t all that “normal” but that I’d been wanting to try were red velvet cake and macarons.  They’re all over the foodie blogs and seemed like things I oughta know how to do.  My Valentine’s Day red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting turned out amazing and, well, addictive.  Won’t be making those again for awhile.  :)  The macarons....they were pretty much a flop.  Granted, they were from a box, and I made them in someone else’s oven.  And I should always re-read directions that are in Turkish, just to be sure.  :)  Still, after having introduced the kids I stayed with to “cookies that taste like clouds” they were excited to make them with me, and, wonky-looking or not, we had no trouble finishing off the whole batch.  

I hadn’t put homemade sushi on my list (I love it - it just hadn’t occurred to me) but when a friend came to stay for the weekend and brought rice wine vinegar and seaweed sheets (all the way from Sweden) as a hostess gift, I was excited to give it a shot.  I’m all about food that involves a lot of tiny pieces and looks amazing when it’s done, and these rolls were definitely yummy.  So, do-it-yourself sushi:  check.

My time as “temporary mom” provided me with a couple of “firsts” I hadn’t expected.  One was my first parent-teacher conference.  (It was fun to receive praise for “the smartest kid in the class” even if she wasn’t mine!)  The other involved a needle and thread.  I may be Suzi Homemaker in most other areas, but sewing is not my forte, nor have I ever desired for it to be.  Apart from making a pot holder and an apron in Junior High, I have probably sewed on a total of three buttons in my whole life.  (We have great tailors everywhere here, and I know they are grateful for my business!)  But when the reindeer fell off my little buddy’s sock, I decided surely I could handle reattaching it.  His reaction was priceless:  “You’re so good at this - I’m going to ask you to fix my stuff all the time!”  It certainly won’t fall off again anytime soon - just don’t look at the stitches on the inside!  :)

I’ve been trying to think of some classic movie that “everyone has seen” that I ought to watch this year, just to round out my list.  “The Godfather?”  Yeah, I could die happy without seeing that one.  “Citizen Kane” is listed as the best movie of all time, and I can’t recall watching it, though I’m sure my mom has it recorded on at least three different tapes.  Movies aren’t a big priority to me, but it seems I ought to have at least one on my “normal things” list, so I guess I’ll add that.  

Perhaps it’s also time I start compiling a list of “Things Most Turks Have Done that I’ve Never Done.”  I’ve memorized that national anthem, visited Atatürk’s grave and gotten pretty good at making stuffed grape leaves....perhaps this should be the year I run from Asia to Europe in the “fun run” part of the Istanbul Intercontinental Marathon!


Good job celebrating the everyday joys! If you need someone to teach you how to bake bread I can do it. It's been one of my favorite things to do since I was a child.

Happy Easter in Albania:)

Deal. When I come stay at your new house, we can have a bread lesson! :)